1497: New Products

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 09:58, 12 March 2015 by (talk) (Explanation: iPad was nothing new on a technical level, but MacBook Air was decidedly non engineery)
Jump to: navigation, search
New Products
If you ever hear "Wait, is that Kim Dotcom's new project? I'm really excited about it and already signed up, although I'm a little nervous about whether everyone should hand over control of their medical...", it's time to dig a bunker in your backyard.
Title text: If you ever hear "Wait, is that Kim Dotcom's new project? I'm really excited about it and already signed up, although I'm a little nervous about whether everyone should hand over control of their medical...", it's time to dig a bunker in your backyard.


This comic points out an apparent paradox in product performance: Many products that are criticized by techies when first announced go on to great success, and many that are heavily hyped are total flops. The product in question may be a reference to the Apple Watch, which was announced around the time of this comic's release.

If they say... Explanation Example
"It doesn't do anything new" A product that "doesn't do anything new" may still be successful for a variety of reasons. It may in fact do something new that the engineers and programmers are overlooking, or it may simply be a better presentation of an older idea. This latter category is the completion of the life-cycle mentioned later in the comic, those products whose "ideas will show up in something successful." iPod, iPad
"Why would anyone want that?" If engineers and programmers can't figure out why anyone would want a product, that may actually be because the applications are highly avant-garde or niche. Although then it would never become a big success! Engineers and programmers themselves may be in a niche that doesn't share the tastes and priorities of non-technical people, and are therefore unable to understand and accurately assess the appeal that a product will have to the masses. Twitter, MacBook Air
"Really exciting" Products that are "really exciting" to engineers and programmers, so much so that they have already pre-ordered them, may fail to succeed for two reasons.

First, the product may have flaws that techies consider unimportant, but matter to the general public. These may include bad marketing (the masses don't hear about or "get" how good the product is), an unintuitive design or implementation (which more technical users may be able to "live with", but regular people may not be able or willing), or something as simple as a lack of aesthetics (which decreases appeal for use by owners and may temper the fervor which might otherwise encourage further sales).

Alternately, the product could turn out to be "nerd bait," so to speak. The developers promise a cool, groundbreaking new gadget or service, and people get so excited by the idea that they ignore whether or not it's actually feasible. When the developers can't follow through, unsurprisingly, the product flops. The ideas that it proposed, which were so intriguing to the programmers and the developers, will be worth billions once someone can figure out how to realize them.

"I've already preordered one" myIDkey
"Wait, are you talking about <unfamiliar person's name>'s new project?" If a product's developer's name is well-known among engineers and programmers, but not among the general public, that's usually not a good sign. Quite likely, the developer is someone who goes a step farther than those in the previous category, not just announcing something cool and exciting they can't follow through on, but doing so knowing that they can't follow through yet still taking people's money. The state may press criminal charges against them (for fraud or such), or the angry investors may sue to get their money back. Shawn Fanning
"I would never put <company> in charge of managing my <whatever>" If engineers' and programmers' only objection is that they don't like the company behind the product, that's basically a tacit admission that there's nothing else wrong with it. For the average consumer, the perks of a groundbreaking new product outweigh whatever problems they may have with the company behind it. This category also relates to the numerous privacy concerns raised about the devices and software of certain companies, and the way people tend to get riled up about these issues and then forget about them once it becomes too inconvenient. For instance, a few months ago, in the aftermath of Facebook releasing its Messenger app, it would not be uncommon to hear people say "I would never put Facebook in charge of managing my network connectivity/phone calls/camera". However, 6 months later and barely anyone is complaining anymore, and within another year or so even the most hardline of privacy advocates will probably give in. take your pick

The title text imagines a product that fits into the second, third and fourth category: "Wait, is that Kim Dotcom's new project? [= third category]. I'm really excited about it and already signed up. [= both options from the second category]. Although I'm a little nervous about whether everyone should hand over control of their medical... [= fourth category]."

Kim Dotcom is a controversial entrepreneur and convicted fraud. He even changed his surname to Dotcom because of the dot.com stock market bubble that made him a millionaire. He fits perfectly into the mold of someone well-known to programmers and engineers, but perhaps not so much to your average Joe.

Taken together, these imply that an untrustworthy and potentially malicious company has an exciting new idea that may eventually come out in successful form, gains control of a large amount of medical information, but ultimately result in law suits not just from investors but from misled consumers (category 3). Because the initial release will be a flop (category 2), there is some time to prepare before the successful use of this idea becomes a reality (also category 2), at which point that or some other company will gain control of a large amount of people's medical something (category 4). Once this happens you could expect dramatic repercussions; this is why the title text suggests to dig a bunker while there is still time.


Predicting the success or
failure of a new product
based on what engineers and
programmers are saying about it
[A two-column table illustrating this. The headings are actually standing above the table.]
If they say... It means...
"It doesn't do anything new" The product will be

a gigantic success.

"Why would anyone want that?"
"Really exciting" The product will be a flop.
Years later, its ideas will

show up in something successful.

"I've already preorded one"
"Wait, are you talking about
<unfamiliar person's name>'s

new project?"

The product could be
a scam and may result

in arrests or lawsuits.

"I would never put
<company> in charge of

managing my <whatever>."

Within five years, they will.


  • There is a typo in the comic: "Preorded" should have been "preordered".

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Seems to me that the humor on the first two is based on engineers and programmers not understanding the general public's needs and wants. Also based on how engineers may find products "exciting" based on how novel the product's functionality is, not based on how useful that functionality is. 07:02, 11 March 2015 (UTC)MW

It seems to me to be a bash on various makes, remakes, re-remakes, /(re-){2,}remakes/ and sequels of sequels that become very successful. — 07:52, 11 March 2015 (UTC)
It looks to me that it refers for example to the Oculus rift. 08:22, 11 March 2015 (UTC)
I took the point of the first category to be that if smart people (programmers and engineers being assumed to be smart) can't understand why anyone would want some stupid useless piece of crap, that it will be a huge success because stupid people outnumber smart people a hundred to one (ref: MS Windows), and the point of the second category to be that if it excites smart people, it'll fail in the marketplace because stupid people outnumber smart people a hundred to one. 08:57, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

I would be interested in a chart of examples of each category (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Sean Malstrom talked about this. In general, Super Mario Bros, the Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, while classic, are actually nothing new... just having a high level of crasftmanship. Besides, people want familiar experiences. In a way, that makes sense. Meanwhile, hype tends to inflate expectations. The only game that ever fulfilled hype was Super Mario Bros. 3... still a classic. Then again, hype is a mere tactic used in getting people to buy poor games; great games do not need hype. Greyson (talk) 13:31, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Reading those 'quotes', I'm minded of Bill Gates's statement on exactly how much memory we wouldn't need more than, the head of IBM far earlier predicting the need for perhaps five(? look it up) computers in the whole world, the century-old prediction that the number of cars in the world wouldn't exceed the (small number of) chauffeurs who could be trained, etc. Plus things like Microsoft's failed earlier attempts at Windows tablets (and OSes) that preceded the latest craze by a decade and then died, only for the recent mania (which might again be dying, but at least has a foothold). But is it worthwhile actually putting in loads of links to these kinds of things, to illustrate each issue? Probably not... 14:59, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Well, Bill Gates actually didn't said that: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Gates#Misattributed 21:40, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

I think the alt text refers to the 6th row of the table as well, the speaker in the quote is nervous about handing his medical information over to KimDotCom's company, which means within 5 years he will willingly do it. The 2nd and 3rd rows made me think of the Pebble Watch, which was launched on kickstarter (pre-ordered), but I don't believe it was widely commercially successful. The concept of the Pebble is being used in the Apple Watch, but with a higher quality screen, greater focus on design elements, and a much much higher price-tag. 18:28, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

No it cannot fit there. Because he has signed up and thus h does not say never in my life... I have changed back and added this explantion --Kynde (talk) 19:18, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Does anybody else find this explanation borderline offensive? You can describe differences groups without being derogatory.

Something between the current text and the comment labeled 08:57, 11 March 2015 (UTC) should do it. -- 20:13, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Title text does seem to refer to 4th category. Please discuss before deleting. Djbrasier (talk) 21:18, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Well I disagree. I has already once removed a reference to the fourth category, and thus I did it again when you put it in again and also wrote alot of text where all of it basically was written below the Dotcom explanation. Try and read your versions, and see that most of what you wrote apart from the fourth category is more or less double. If the guy has signed up he have no problems with this company. Also it is mentioned that the fourth category is not a company he is afraid off, but just someone they do not like. At least we should try to avoid writing the same twice! I could say the same to you by the way: Please discuss before adding something others have already twice removed. --Kynde (talk) 22:08, 11 March 2015 (UTC)
I had not seen your latest revision. I like the wording. I have kept the category four reference in my newest change, where I have merged the two paragraphs, keeping by far most of your text, but moving most of it below the Kim Dotkom paragraph, as it is importnat to explain him before going on with the explanation why he is so dangerous! I hope you can live with this version? --Kynde (talk) 22:16, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Is there any evidence that the consensus of engineers upon seeing the iPhone was that it was boring. I remember thinking it would make a killing. 05:01, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

Compare the iPhone 1 to the Nokia E90 (also from 2007); 3G, aGPS, clipboard, optionally larger screen with higher resolution, replaceable battery. So the iPhone has been technically inferior for its time (except the capacitive touch). The correction of the shortcomings have been sold as the next generation iPhones in the following years and many engineers knew of succsssions of better alternatives during that times. The image of Apple is and has been: The devices have less options, but do what they should. The price tag makes them a status symbol. Sebastian -- 10:26, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

added Ubuntu Edge to ""I've already pre-ordered one" which I actually did :) sirKitKat (talk) 10:24, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

Are we sure that "preorded" is a typo? To me, it sounds like Randall was trying to emulate some kind of internet slang stuff. 21:25, 14 November 2017 (UTC)